I was planning to start this essay, the topic being “loneliness,” by saying, “of course I get lonesome for family and friends, but I don’t suffer from loneliness.”
“Loneliness” is, after all, a sad feeling of isolation. “Lonesome,” I thought, is just missing those people that I love. It turns out, they have the same meaning. Loneliness is an unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation. It is also described as social pain, and a state of distress or discomfort. The definition for “lonesome” is pretty much identical. Definitions read, “sad or dejected as a result of lack of companionship or separation from others,” and “depressed or sad because of the lack of friends, companionship, etc.” So, maybe I’m not lonesome, either.
My mother once said, “Of all of my kids, Cindy could live on Beaver Island; she has always been the most anti-social of all my children.” When I tell that story, which usually gets a laugh, I add that I think she meant it in the nicest possible way. She was correct in her observation, though. I spent my childhood searching for places where I could be alone, and quiet, in the midst of our large and noisy household.
I used to say that a more accurate description would be “asocial,” as I don’t feel that I need people to the same level that others seem to. Checking the dictionary, though, I see that “asocial” is defined as “avoiding social interaction; inconsiderate of or hostile to others…” which is the same as anti-social.
I do miss family and friends, but I don’t feel “sad or dejected.” I want to describe it more like a feeling of melancholy, but I’m afraid that if I went back to the dictionary, I’d find that “sad” and “melancholy” also share the same meaning. What is it, then, this life I live on Beaver Island, far away from so many of the people I love?
Well, I do miss them all: my daughters, my grandchildren, my brother and sisters, nieces and nephews, and distant friends. I sometimes wish I were a bigger presence in their lives. “Sad,” “depressed,” and “dejected” are not accurate terms, though. This is just my normal life.
When I pick up the telephone and hear the voice of a loved one, my spirit leaps with joy. I feel happy excitement at the prospect of going to visit friends or family, or of having them come here. Messages from my grandchildren always warm my heart. Photos posted to social media make me feel like I’m participating, in some small way, from this great distance, in their lives.
But I am not sad. I am not pining away for those people that I love, and don’t see regularly. There were times in my life when I felt loneliness as it is defined: when my daughters first went out on their own; immediately after the end of my marriage; likewise, when other relationships ended; and often after a death, with the finality it brings. The transition of going from having someone nearby, to not…that has been hard. But those difficult, depressed feelings don’t last forever. I’ve gotten used to being alone. Maybe my first statement was correct after all: I don’t suffer from loneliness.